Diabetes and alternative medicine: cause for concern

Diabet Med. 1994 Mar;11(2):210-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.1994.tb02022.x.


'Alternative' medicines are becoming increasingly popular, and in this paper we describe our experience with alternative approaches to orthodox diabetes management. Four patients with insulin-dependent diabetes reduced or stopped their insulin in favour of therapeutic approaches including prayer, faith healing, unusual diets, and supplements of vitamins and trace elements. This resulted in ketoacidosis in three, in one case life-threatening; and weight loss and hyperglycaemia in the other. One patient developed serious retinopathy. Additionally, eight other types of alternative diabetic treatment are described, not as far as we know associated with such serious complications. These include homeopathy, reflexology, meditation, herbal treatment, 'cellular nutrition', 'subconscious healing', 'pearl therapy' (drinking milk in which pearls have been boiled) and 'astrotherapy' (typing pieces of coral around the arm). Diabetes is a chronic incurable disease, for which modern treatments remain somewhat unsatisfactory. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that some patients seek alternative treatments with more attractive claims. Diabetes health professionals need to be aware of the potential dangers associated with some of these treatments.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / therapy*
  • Female
  • Homeopathy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage
  • Phytotherapy
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Religion and Medicine